August 27th is a day that Jeff and I will never forget. We spent the evening with many of Austin's best entrepreneurs at the perfect communual venue - Lola Savannah. Together, we began mapping out the future of Hurt+Harbach, and the Austin entrepreneurial scene. We intended to keep the event small - at around 50 people - but hummingbirds can't be stopped and around 125 showed with just a few days notice. All throughout Lola Savannah, boards were displayed with provocative questions and answers were gathered via post-it notes. The awesome Stacy Weitzner, Creative Director of Sunni Brown, Ink, created a mural in real-time in the back to visually represent and memorialize it. It was a happening scene, and it was both humbling and energizing to be a part of it all. The beginning of something really great.
So what did we learn? A lot. First, here is the blank and then completed mural:
If you start on the left, you'll see that there is a big desire by the entrepreneurial community to learn. From boot camps to workshops to meet-ups to field trips, Austin hummingbirds want to get together more to learn from each other. This isn't surprising to us, and it is a huge part of the reason that we started Hurt+Harbach. The Austin ethos has always been to help each other. Austin is a unique community in that way, and one that we are proud to call home.
Going to the right, you'll see that Austin's ecosystem needs more process, accessibility, sophisticated VCs, listening, transparency, and female entrepreneurs. It needs less small apps and website companies, short-sighted hiring models, bullsh*t, and being lean to a fault. All of this really resonates with us and is what we want to help change. I love how above this a key theme that popped out was that we need to be Austin proud and focus on game-changing businesses and stop comparing ourselves to Silicon Valley. As I wrote in the state of tech entrepreneurship in Austin, we need to compare Austin to Austin and take what is most unique about us and capitalize on that.
Continuing to the right, hummingbirds rely most on their community to provide connections, emotional support, early participation, skill sharing, social capital, honest feedback, and lessons learned. And they want to help by building breakthrough ideas and better teams and collaborating with the University of Texas at Austin and the high-quality incubators we now have here, such as Capital Factory and TechStars Austin.
Further to the right, the biggest gap in the education of a hummingbird is time management, knowing what works, how to collaborate, marketing, accounting and finance, and legal.
And on the right side of the mural, you'll see that entrepreneurs need guidance on scaling responsibly and successfully with more stories about what went right and wrong and contacts to help them acquire funding. Faster access to capital with friendly terms is needed so they can focus on building their businesses. But they need access to smart people and talent and they need more understanding of the fundraising process. They also need more networking events to get them access to the capital in the first place.
All of this really resonated with us, and I want to sincerely thank all of you who came out to show your support and contribute to the dialogue. I hope you'll agree that we were really listening when we tell you what our next three events are. This event was just the beginning.
Our next event will be the roast of sorts. I'll be presenting the original Bazaarvoice investor deck to some of Austin's best venture capitalists. This was the exact same deck that I presented to Austin Ventures back in August of 2005. The good, bad and ugly of this deck has helped many entrepreneurs before they present to potential backers. Hopefully even more will learn (and laugh) as I present it again and try to answer the many questions. I bet some of them will be really tough for me to answer! Perhaps my partner, Jeff Harbach, will be the toughest of them all - we'll see! The venue? Bazaarvoice. The date? Friday, Sept. 20 starting at 5pm sharp. We are limited to 120 attendees, so sign up today as I imagine this event will book up quickly.
In October, we'll bring together Austin's best startup lawfirms to educate you on the most common gotchas when working with venture capitalists, including challenging funding terms. Yes, a VC is hosting an event on how to avoid problems with VCs. We'll have fun with it and hopefully produce bigger entrepreneurial outcomes with less heartburn for all. We'll announce the exact date and venue later.
In November, we'll have a private event for our current and prospective portfolio companies only. One of our advisors for Hurt+Harbach is Kirk Dando, one of the best CEO coaches in the country. I was very fortunate to have Kirk coach me over the last four years in building Bazaarvoice. He has a new book coming out about the 12 most common mistakes that leaders make when growing their company. I've lived this book with Kirk and this will be a very intimate gathering with lots of discussion and lessons learned. Sorry this can't be an open event like our first three, but this material is best covered in small groups where it can be thoroughly discussed and absorbed.
We want to thank all of the hummingbirds that braved the rain (well, it looked like it was going to rain, at least!) to share their ideas with us and each other. Again, it was a night we'll never forget. The beginning of a dialogue that we hope will change the entrepreneurial landscape in Austin for the better. We'll keep turning back to this mural, which will be proudly displayed in our office, and your ideas - it is our roadmap for the future of Hurt+Harbach. Thanks again to Lola Savannah, and to Sunni Brown, Ink, for their awesome work, and we'll see you on September 20! Let's keep the conversation going…
Oh, just one last thing. There was one very small hummingbird buzzing around Lola Savannah, and that was our daughther. She was presenting her new business, Flash, to anyone that would listen. I didn't put her up to this and was a bit surprised when she showed with 50 Flash business cards to hand out. She was in full-on pitch mode. Here she is with Josh McClure, co-founder and CEO of Real Massive, and also giving her pitch to Andrew Chen, co-founder and CEO of Greater Good Labs, wearing Google Glasses in record mode (thanks to John Fitch for the idea and letting her borrow them). The video is priceless, and when Flash becomes a big deal we'll have it to reference for the IPO. ;)